Instrument maintenance is one of the most overlooked areas of consistent musicianship. Knowing how to look after your instrument correctly can save you a lot of passive costs and help prevent untimely breaks during rehearsals and recordings of performances. Most instruments don’t require extensive effort or finances to keep them in check. However, neglecting to do so can lead to you forking out a decent amount of your savings for repair or replacement. With that in mind, we’ve put together a brief guide to caring for any musical instrument.
The Case Is The Place
Aside from your loving hands, a protective case is by far the safest space to store your instrument. The majority of instruments on the current market have specific cases built to house them. These vary between soft cases and hard cases, and your local instrument supplier should have access to a healthy option of either.
Soft cases are an excellent choice for any musician with budget restraints. These cases provide essential protection against minor scratches or dings that you might encounter during travel or through simple accidents. Hard cases are a terrific long-term investment and can often be the saving grace for an instrument that suffers a severe fall or knock. Most hard cases are built using sturdy textiles that are still light enough for use on the road. These cases also usually have soft padding inside for added protection. Hard cases can make certain traveling arrangements tricky due to their extra weight and fixed shape.
Rust & Dust
There are a few climate conditions that can speed up the wear and tear of certain instruments. Dust may seem like a fairly harmless contributor, but if left unchecked, it can cause some undesirable effects on the playability of your instrument. Certain instruments like guitars, bass, or violins can develop gunk on the strings, which dampens their overall resonance. The same instance happens on instruments that use reeds for resonance like harmonicas, saxophones, and clarinets. Make sure to clean the surfaces and all accessible parts of your instrument weekly, especially if you live in busy or dusty conditions.
Another environmental factor to consider for instrument care is rust and mold. Musicians who live or work in particularly humid, damp, or cold conditions should protect their instruments from the damage caused by moisture in the air. Instruments also rust easier if they are close to bodies of water such as the ocean or lakes. The simplest way to prevent premature rusting is to keep your instrument dry and concealed in its protective case between uses. Try to keep a clean cloth or piece of fabric on hand to wipe your instrument down after use to remove any unwanted moisture on the surface.
On The Wire
Electronic instruments tend to suffer from damage or breakages than acoustic ones, especially during frequent use. These damages occur as electricity is a slightly more volatile element to deal with in instrument design. Electronic instruments include the following:
- Guitars and guitar amplifiers
- Keyboards, midi controllers, drum machines, samplers, etc.
- Preamps, rack units, and soundcards/interfaces.
It’s crucial to ensure that the electricity grid you’re using for these instruments is stable. This will ensure unnecessary damage caused by power cuts or surges. Never use power supplies that exceed the voltage of your electronic instruments, as this will almost always lead to breakage. Also, try not to use power supplies not specifically designated for your instrument, even if they share the same power specs.
Service and Protect
Much like cars, computers, and other everyday inventions, your instruments can benefit greatly from the regular service by a qualified service professional. Certain minor issues can be self-treated at home with enough care and research, but a lack of either can cause further damage that might lead to expensive repairs. Instrument servicemen generally have the proper resources, tools, and knowledge base to handle every major area of your instrument care with little to no error.
Even if your instrument does not have any noticeable issues that hinder playing or tone, you’d be surprised at the improvement in both once it’s been through a simple service. This is especially important for instruments with complex setups like guitars, pianos, saxophones, or drum kits.
Time And Place
The final pointer on this list is slightly subjective and will depend entirely on our level of playing and personal circumstances. You can prevent a lot of unexpected and unwarranted wear and tear by knowing your instrument’s appropriate time and place for use. If you wish to have a reliable acoustic-electric guitar for an upcoming tour, taking that same guitar on a weekend camping trip does not make sense.
It may also be best to keep your instrument away from non-players, as they may not know how to handle correctly or safely store your gear. It can be wise to purchase a primary instrument for performance and recording and a second one for more social circumstances. By keeping your instrument away from inexperienced or possibly careless hands, you will lower the rate of its degradation and reduce the chance of accidental damage.
Alongside a watchful eye and a sense of ownership, the practices listed above should help to maximize the lifespan of your instrument. Learning how to care for your instrument is a simple and extremely rewarding habit. Try to ask your local instrument dealer or music teacher for any in-depth maintenance advice that applies to your instrument, as this will provide your precious first-hand experience on the subject. The better you care for your instrument, the more it is sure to give you in return. Thanks for reading our brief guide to caring for your instrument.